If your teenager is one of the few who actually gets the required nine hours of sleep, you can stop reading this now. For the rest of you, new research has highlighted some facts you need to know about. Lack of enough sleep in teens has been linked to an increase in signs of depression and thoughts about suicide as reported in a research study on 15,000 teenagers conducted through Columbia University. The study looked specifically at the bedtime parents impose on their teens… those who allow teens to stay up until midnight on a school night, vs parents who impose a 9pm or 10pm bedtime. The later bedtime is linked to teens with 25% more depression and 20% more thoughts of suicide.
There is more involved here, too: lack of sleep impacts teens’ performance, safe driving and even weight control, as well as mental health.
Summer is beginning so your teen’s schedule is likely to change, and even with a more relaxed schedule it is important to encourage healthy sleep habits. The sleep experts recommend not varying the nightly schedule more than two hours on weekends…sometimes easier said than done. But don’t give up on providing some direction and parameters on your teenager’s sleep habits, even in the summer. There is a lot at stake.
There are some specific ways parents you help your teenagers develop better sleep habits, and none of these are difficult:
exercise - encourage and facilitate your teen’s regular exercise
minimize screentime prior to bed - take the computer out of his bedroom
avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening
avoid bright lights prior to bedtime
model responsible behavior in your sleep habits
melatonin can help (but you may want to ask your doctor about using it)
don’t use an over-the-counter sleep aid without speaking with your doctor
Learn more about Sue Blaney’s book - Please Stop the Roller Coaster! How Parents of Teenagers Can Smooth Out the Ride